Regulatory Reform in Mississippi

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Washington isn’t the only place that needs regulatory reform. States have their own excesses to deal with. To that end, our friends at the Mississippi Center for Public Policy (MCPP) have released a Conservative Platform for 2023. Three of its regulatory reform planks deserve special mention. Other states should pass their own versions, as should Congress.

The first is a REINS Act for Mississippi, which would require the state legislature to hold a vote on all new regulations above a certain estimated cost. That would give legislators a veto power that makes it difficult for agencies to regulate unilaterally. We at CEI have long favored a federal REINS Act, which stands for Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny. My federal REINS Act paper from 2016 is here.

At heart, REINS is about the separation of powers. Legislation is supposed to come from the legislative branch. Over time, executive branch agencies, both in Washington and in the states, have taken on more and more legislative powers. REINS Act-style legislation at different levels of government are one way to put a check on rogue agencies and restore some balance to the separation of powers.

Next is a regulatory sandbox, which my colleague Ryan Nabil has written about. Sandboxes are essentially small-scale experiments with different or looser regulatory policies for certain sectors that let companies try out new innovations or new business models without as much worry about red tape or fines. Sandboxes allow a modest trial-and-error process, where the successes can be adopted more widely and the errors can give examples of policies to avoid.

Third is a commitment to downsize bureaucracy. This could involve several policies, from occupational licensing reform to automatic sunsets for individual rules and even entire agencies, such as Texas already does. As the agenda notes, “Does Mississippi really need a Board of Massage Therapy?” With automatic sunsets, the legislature can vote to renew worthwhile rules and agencies, while never-needed ones like the Board of Massage Therapy will automatically disappear over time.

Finally, though CEI takes no stances on social issues, conscience dictates that I state my personal opposition to the platform’s anti-transgender planks. Conservatives are free to have their own opinions about people. They are not free to use government to force those views on others, nor should they be.

Also concerning are the platform’s language about what it calls “woke” politics in school curricula and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles in government pension funds. MCPP’s policy recommendations in these areas will almost certainly be politicized. In fact, that is likely their purpose. This is in line with a troubling tendency on the right to see government as a tool to reward friends and punish enemies. For those who want a calmer but still skeptical alternative, my colleague Richard Morrison has several suggestions for how governments should approach ESG investing.

MCPP’s entire Conservative Platform for 2023 for Mississippi is here, with more detailed proposals and draft legislation forthcoming. Also keep an eye out for a new edition of CEI’s own Agenda for Congress.